Live Life to the Fullest

by Diane Hahn
Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Life

Get screened, stay healthy and live to finish your bucket list.

Do you ever get up in the morning and say, “I don’t want to live my life to the fullest, so I think I will neglect my health?” It is not a likely scenario, but one that happens on an unconscious level to many of us. Most people will describe themselves as fairly healthy. But when you probe further, you’ll find out about lots of aches and pains, a family history with strong ties to chronic illness, and a lack of a proactive approach to their health.

As business professionals, we are always trying to improve our bottom line: work smarter, not harder; find our competitive advantage; be strategic in our planning; and be intentional. These are all laudable goals, but none of your best plans or ideas matter if you neglect your health and lose your future. And not just your future professional pursuits, but also your personal ones.

We often dream of completing our “bucket list,” doing those things that bring us joy, a sense of achievement, or a special adventure with family or friends. Our quality of life matters. So why do adults with generally good judgment put off a simple medical test like a colonoscopy that could save their life?

A Simple Test = Time Well Spent
Colorectal cancer is the only cancer that is 90-percent preventable when caught early. It is also a cancer that can have no symptoms. A simple colonoscopy screening can detect cancer-causing polyps and allow for their removal before they turn into colorectal cancer.

A colonoscopy is a test that takes a little planning on your part, but it will be time well spent if you take the long view of your life.

Yes, you have to drink the prep solution the day prior to the procedure.

Yes, you may have to take a day off from work.

Yes, you will be sedated during the procedure.

Yes, this could save your life.

No, you don’t need a medical referral if you are age 50. You can just make an appointment to schedule the test. Find out where your insurance covers the procedure and get scheduled. There are also free colonoscopies available locally for the uninsured or underinsured.

Here’s the good news: If you have no polyps, it is suggested that you schedule a colonoscopy every 10 years. If polyps are detected and the polyps are removed, then screening is recommended every five years. A few days out of a lifetime is a small investment of personal time with a big return for your quality of life and for those you love.

If you are 50 or older and haven’t been screened, what are you waiting for?

If you are under age 50 and are having symptoms, or you just found out that you have a close family member who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy.

Weighing the Costs
American Cancer Society data shows colorectal cancer as the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, the annual cost to treat colorectal cancer in the U.S. is $14 billion. For those diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the cost in the initial year of treatment is $51,327, and the cost for care during the final year of life is $85,671. These cost estimates are only for the treatment of colorectal cancer and do not reflect the other costs and treatments often needed when complications arise.

But the financial costs of treatment pale in comparison to the cost of human suffering the disease causes throughout numerous surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation—not to mention the complications and side effects of these treatments. The loss of loved ones to families and communities is beyond calculation.

On the other hand, an average colonoscopy costs only $2,400; and as mentioned earlier, 90 percent of colorectal cancer can be found and treated by polyp removal when found early. Colorectal cancer screening rates in Illinois need improvement; Illinois ranks 44th out of 50 states for colorectal screening. These statistics can be improved, and central Illinois is a good place to start.

Screening At Age 50
A new local nonprofit, Colorectal Cancer Life, has a two-fold mission: 1) to offer support to those who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer; and 2) to raise awareness of the need for screening as a life-saving measure. Wendy Lewis, CRC Life founder and survivor, along with survivor Cathleen Schisler, currently co-facilitate a survivor and caregiver support group.

March is Colorectal Cancer Screening Awareness Month. I am going out on a limb and guessing you didn’t know that, but now you do! If you are age 50 or older, please take the initiative to get your screening colonoscopy this year. If you are an owner or decision maker for a business, we challenge you to take the greater initiative and spread the word at your company through increased screening awareness. Consider giving encouragement, and if possible, incentives to your employees age 50 and up to get screened.

Yes, it can help your business’ bottom line to have a healthier workforce and fewer catastrophic insurance costs, but don’t let that be the only reason. There is a greater reason: it is simply the right thing to do. Excellent endoscopy centers are available in the Greater Peoria area, including Central Illinois Endoscopy Center and other local providers.

This March, help us raise awareness and get the word out about colorectal cancer screening at age 50. Let’s knock the No. 2 cause of cancer-related deaths down a few pegs… at least in our community. Please: get screened, stay healthy and live to finish your bucket list. iBi

For more information, call (309) 267-9196, email info@crc-life.org or visit crc-life.org.

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